‘Hidden Figure’ & Human Computer, Katherine Johnson Dies at 101
“Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
In a tweet, he called Johnson “an American hero.”
Johnson was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the Oscar-nominated 2016 film about trailblazing black women whose work at NASA was integral during the space race.
Born in 1918 in the little town of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Katherine Johnson, a research mathematician, who was simply fascinated by numbers, was born. Fascinated by numbers and able to dissect numbers in so many different forms, Johnson was a high school freshman by the time she was 10 years old. A truly amazing feat in an era when school for African-Americans normally stopped at eighth grade.
“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did,” said Johnson.
But to truly understand how awesome Katherine really was, we have to take a look back at who recognized her talent first.
Katherine’s father, Joshua, was determined that his bright little girl would have a chance to meet her potential. He drove his family 120 miles to Institute, West Virginia, where she could continue her education through high school. Johnson’s academic performance proved her father’s decision was the right one: Katherine skipped though grades to graduate from high school at 14, and graduated college at 18.
In 1953, after years as a teacher and later as a stay-at-home mom, she began…